The lovely Sandy Boikian is a writer, director and producer, and she’s the filmmaker behind the wonderful movie, Fragile World (read the TBAP review of Fragile World here). I have the great pleasure and honor of presenting my interview with Sandy today. To learn more about this amazing and interesting woman, follow our chat below!
Miranda ~ Hello Sandy! Thank you for visiting TBAP today. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Sandy ~ I am one of the few people in the L.A. entertainment scene who was actually born and raised in the Los Angeles area. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and friends, and the ability to do what I love to do.
Miranda ~ How did you become a Christian—please tell us your story.
Sandy ~ At the time I lived in Greece and was in my early twenties. I was out for the evening with my boyfriend when we heard what I thought was a street entertainer, speaking in English, surrounded by a crowd. I was excited to hear my native tongue so we stopped to listen. It turned out he was sharing the gospel. He was there with a missionary couple from England who were in Greece to plant a church. The couple befriended us and answered all of our questions—you know, those annoying questions non-believers like to use to challenge Christians. They were very loving, sincere, and never forced their beliefs on us. We visited their little church and were amazed at the presence of God in that place. It was powerful. I became torn and confused because I didn’t realize what was happening in my spirit—that I was starving spiritually. I read the Book of Matthew and it came alive in my hands. I resisted for many months, but God didn’t let go. Then my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and I, both surrendered our lives to God. It’s been an incredible journey ever since.
Miranda ~ What made you choose Christian filmmaking as opposed to secular?
Sandy ~ I crossed over from Christian theater to filmmaking, and my first film was adapted from a stage play, so it fell into the category of a faith film. I wanted to reach a larger audience than I could in theater. Since He gave me these gifts, it only felt natural to use them for His glory.
Miranda ~ What is the motto of your production studio and your greatest inspiration and drive?
Sandy ~ It’s always my goal when I write for both stage and screen to go beyond mere entertainment. If the audience doesn’t take something with them, I have failed. It doesn’t have to be a life-changing epiphany, but if just one point sticks with them, something they mull over the next day—or better still, something they apply to their life—then my goal has been achieved.
Awhile back I heard Bishop T.D. Jakes say something that has become my daily prayer. He said, “I never prayed, ‘Lord, make me successful.’ I prayed, ‘Lord, make me effective.’”
Miranda ~ What is the principle behind the stories you choose to make into film, and, what kinds of stories make your preference?
Sandy ~ I make movies that I would watch!
Reaching the lost and hurting with the message of God’s hope is always at the forefront of my mind, probably because of my own powerful conversion. I’m so grateful for the people who loved me and didn’t give up on me, even in my stubborn rebellion. They are my role models.
Actually when my first play was produced, the blurb in the church bulletin said something like, “Bring your unsaved friends.” People did, and great things came out of that, but something else really cool happened that I didn’t anticipate. The Christians who attended just to bring their friends were also deeply affected by the play. So ever since, my aim has been to bring people to Jesus, either for the first time or with new intimacy and fresh insight.
My story preferences are—for both saved and unsaved—redemption, forgiveness, healing, hope, grace, Truth. They must be issues we deal with or struggle with in daily life, and the themes need to be relatable, something that can be applied.
Miranda ~ When you make a film, what do you hope to pass across to your viewers?
Sandy ~ That we need God. Needing God doesn’t mean you are weak. He is our Creator. We need our Creator. The challenge is to stay true to God’s Word even though some people will be offended. That can’t be helped. I try to be sensitive and never want to come off as obnoxious, but what’s the point of making a Christian film if we twist scripture or sugarcoat it in an attempt to please everyone?
Miranda ~ You released a movie not so long ago—Fragile World. Why choose this story—what makes it special?
Sandy ~ The main theme is emotional healing. I used characters with mental health issues, and critics and viewers have pointed out how much they appreciate seeing this subject in a Christian film. It was important to me to include content you don’t normally see in a feel-good faith film. But as I’ve said, it’s crucial that viewers relate to the characters in my stories. We all have wounds and pain. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to receive the message of hope and healing.
Miranda ~ Are you working on another project right now? Could you tell us a bit about it and when we can expect its release?
Sandy ~ My latest feature film, No Sunlight, will screen in Los Angeles on September 29th. The film was shot two years ago and was adapted from a play first produced in 2003. The story takes place in the near future and sharing the gospel has become outlawed. In a case of mistaken identity, an atheist comedienne, Kathryn, is mistaken for a Christian and falsely arrested. In jail she meets her nemesis, a ruthless watch commander who will stop at nothing to make sure Kathryn pays for the crime with her life. When the play was produced, critics called it “Timely,” but it has become even more so today.
Miranda ~ So much has changed in the last ten years in the Christian film industry. As a movie producer, where do you see the industry in the next five to ten years?
Sandy ~ I remember walking into Christian bookstores a few years ago to find one shelf of movies. Now the DVDs go wall to wall, floor to ceiling. I think the market will become even more saturated since cameras and gear are so affordable today, plus some people are now making films with their smart phones.
Miranda ~ In your opinion, what does the Christian film industry lack? What can be done about it?
Sandy ~ Better stories with realistic characters. I think they’ve gotten better, but for many years Christian films were not held to the same standard as secular. I never understood that. Budget issues certainly get in the way—that’s my personal struggle—but even if you’re dealing with low production value, the script should always be the best that it can be before taking it to set.
Rewrite. Refuse to settle for mediocrity. Get rid of “sermons on film” and stereotypical characters. Don’t make the Christian a perfect saint or the villain 100% evil with no redeeming qualities. Even the uber-villains in the Bible such as King Saul and Nebuchadnezzar had feelings because they were human beings.
Miranda ~ In what way would you say the Christian film industry is different from the secular?
Sandy ~ If secular films are “inspirational,” the message tends to be to find strength within yourself. They won’t point you to God. Very rarely have I seen a Christian character in a secular film, but when I have, he or she is usually a fool. I shouldn’t let it bother me, because I understand the characters are created by non-believers, but it tends to get under my skin nevertheless!
Miranda ~ What do you expect from actors/actresses you work with? How do you pick your cast?
Sandy ~ I expect and actually require them to give it all they’ve got. I let them know right up front in the casting notice to only audition if they are passionate and driven to participate for the love of acting and their love for God. I completely respect actors who can’t or don’t want to work on micro-budget films, but that’s what I do. I’ve been extremely blessed to get talent for both theater and film that is top-notch.
Miranda ~ In what way would you say your production/directing style is different than any other producers/directors?
Sandy ~ I don’t know if it’s different from all others, but I use the skills I learned as a theater director because that’s what I know. I spend a lot of time with the lead actors breaking down their characters. I’m a firm believer in rehearsal because of my background. I require a lot of rehearsals starting several weeks in advance. The actors who have never been in plays find that really odd. However, they have come to respect and appreciate the process because they’ve been able to find more depth and layers. You can’t do that when the crew is breathing down your neck ready to shoot. At rehearsals, the actors can take the time to explore, try things, fail, and then try something else. It’s a luxury we have in theater that is often skipped in film because time is money and every minute counts.
Miranda ~ What’s the worst difficulty you’ve ever encountered in filmmaking? Was it peculiar to the project?
Sandy ~ It’s been the same with all three films I’ve made: fighting to keep on schedule. Unanticipated things that are usually out of our control halt production, such as a dog barking, planes flying overhead, an actor who oversleeps, a camera that decides not to behave for no apparent reason. By the grace of God we have pushed through, but it has never been easy!
Miranda ~ What other directors/producers/actors have you worked with in the past? In retrospect, how would you consider the experience? Also, are there others you hope to work with in the future?
Sandy ~ The only seasoned directors and producers I’ve worked with were in theater, so in the future I would really like to work with experienced film producers that I can learn from and become better.
Miranda ~ Can you tell us a bit about your personal journey into the industry? So far, what you’ve learned, and how it has helped your spiritual walk as a Christian?
Sandy ~ I never went to film school. I had no idea what I was getting into, and all that it would involve. That’s probably a good thing because if I had known, I probably would never have tried! It has stretched and strengthened my faith in amazing ways. I wish I could say I chose to trust God, but it was more like I was forced to trust Him. Finding myself in way over my head, I didn’t have a choice! I’ve prayed to ask Him to take the films where He will and do with them what He will. We have no name talent or budget for advertising, yet He faithfully opens hearts and doors. He led me to To Be A Person. I am so grateful for that.
Miranda ~ What advice would you give to any young Christian producer/director/filmmaker just getting into the industry?
Sandy ~ Learn by doing. Knowledge is great, and planning is a must, but you have to get out there and do the work. Don’t hide behind studying, which won’t truly prepare you for the reality of making the project. Don’t talk about it. Start. Start planning and then launch. Then finish what you start!
This or That Q&A!
Coffee, tea or mocha? Coffee
Lemonade or orange juice? Lemonade
Bicycling or walking? Walking
Gym or outdoor? Outdoor
Vegetable or fruit? Vegetable
Breakfast or dinner? Dinner
Rain or snow? Rain
Spring or fall? Spring
Summer or winter? Summer
Flats or heels? Flats
Twitter or Facebook? Facebook
Books or music? Both!
Cook or clean? Neither!
TV or magazine? TV
*Thank you, Sandy, for stopping by today!
About Sandy Boikian
Sandy Boikian (Writer/Director/Producer) is an award-winning playwright and filmmaker who has written and directed three feature films: Leaving Limbo (adapted from her critically acclaimed play, My Wonderful Coma), which has received multiple film festival awards and can be found in major retail stores across the country; Fragile World, now coming to the end of a successful film festival run and just released on DVD; and recently completed No Sunlight, based on her compelling play.
Sandy has directed over forty stage productions of her nineteen original plays, including the inspirational farce, Next Stop, Broadway, and spiritual-warfare dramedy, Not of the World. Her plays are produced worldwide through ChristianTheatreScripts.com. Learn more about Sandy on her website.